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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

A new cohort of cancer therapeutics innovators led this week's top Houston innovation stories. Photo courtesy of TMC

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included a Houston unicorn raising more funding, TMC Innovation's new cohort, innovators to know, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Anouk van Pol of INGU Solutions, Eric Tait of Urban Capital Network, and Chris Howard of Softeq. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from venture capital to energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

Houston cancer therapeutics accelerator announces newest cohort

Twenty investigators and early-stage biotechnology companies have been named to the latest Texas Medical Center's cohort. Courtesy of TMC

Texas Medical Center Innovation named 20 oncology startups to the 2022 cohort of its groundbreaking Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics this week in celebration with the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act.

The group of Texas-based companies and academic researchers will participate in 9 months of clinical and business development education through the accelerator, with the goal of reaching new milestones, developing strategic plans for their companies, commercializing, and preparing for clinical trials. At the close of the session, the companies will be eligible to apply for grants and pitch investors and corporate partners.

"With the ongoing pandemic, which poses more threat to at-risk populations, it has never been more important to mature novel cancer therapeutics," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, in a statement. "Any drug currently on the market is developed in the spirit of scientific discovery. The importance of developing innovative solutions is not just something that drives TMCi and our Accelerators, and it is at the heart of our ability to improve patient care and outcomes." Click here to continue reading.

University of Houston: What should a faculty inventor’s role be in their startup?

Should you lead the company that's taking your technology to commercialization? Maybe. But maybe not. Graphic byMiguel Tovar/University of Houston

Are you a faculty member at a university? Are you a researcher with an invention that you want to monetize? Do you want to start your own startup company? If you answered yes to these questions, another question you need to consider is, should you leave your research position at the university to lead your company or get out of the way entirely?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. Some faculty inventors want to leave and launch a company based on their research. In most cases, faculty members want to keep their university roles. What is the right decision for you? Click here to continue reading.

Houston group launches equitable fund of funds to increase impact at a lower barrier of entry

Urban Capital Network have launched a fund-of-funds to allow investors to tap into later-stage startups at a much lower barrier of entry. Images via urbancapitalnetwork.com

Early stage investing has always been a tried and true way for investors to get in on the ground floor of a tech company for a smaller financial commitment — but it's risky. Urban Capital Network has created an alternative.

UCN was founded to democratize investment opportunities and help investors of color find investment opportunities all while cutting their teeth as novice investors. Lenny Saizan, co-founder of UCN, says that its Horizon Fund II allows for UCN investors to get involved in venture-backed companies at a much lower price tag.

Saizan explains that UCN members are in that lower tier of accredited investors who don't necessarily have $250,000 or $1 million to invest in a fund — but they have $15,000 to $25,000 to invest.

"We allow more people to participate in venture funds or venture-backed opportunities," Saizan tells InnovationMap. "Instead of going into one deal at a very early stage, you’re getting in a later stage where the deal is more de-risked and you have a better chance of returns." Click here to continue reading.

Houston-founded unicorn closes $240M round of funding led by Dallas firm

Cart.com, a Houston-founded unicorn ecommerce company, has closed its latest round of funding. Photo via cart.com

Cart.com, which moved its headquarters from Houston to Austin in December but still maintains a local presence, just landed $240 million in equity and debt funding.

Legacy Knight Capital Partners, the equity investment arm of the Legacy Knight Multifamily Office, led the equity round, with participation from Citi Ventures, Visa, and other Fortune 100 companies. J.P. Morgan and TriplePoint Capital provided the debt financing. Since being founded in 2020, Cart.com has secured $380 million in funding.

“What [CEO Omair Tariq] and the team at Cart.com have accomplished in the last 14 months is nothing short of remarkable. They have proven they have the ability to rapidly execute on their vision of building the first fully end-to-end e-commerce platform at massive scale,” David Sawyer, chief operating officer and managing partner of Legacy Knight, says in a news release. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

The latest cohort from gBETA Houston has been announced and is currently underway at the Downtown Launchpad. Photo courtesy

A national startup accelerator has announced its fifth local cohort, which includes five Houston companies participating in the spring 2022 class.

Madison, Wisconsin-based gener8tor has announced today the five participating startups in gBETA Houston. The program will be led by Muriel Foster, the newly named director of gBETA Houston, which originally launched in Houston in 2020 thanks to a grant from from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

The program, which is designed to help guide early-stage startups find early customer traction, connect with mentors, and more, is based in the Downtown Launchpad, and is free and does not take equity in the participating companies. The cohort kicked off on April 21 and concludes on June 10.

The new cohort includes:

  • Founded by CEO Steffie Thomson a year ago, Getaway Sticks has designed a shoe that gives women the painless support they need using athletic foam to create a shoe that gives women the painless support they need. Getaway Sticks provides the solutions to women’s #1 wardrobe complaint of high heel pain. Since launch, the company has earned over $35,000 in revenue from over 150 customers.
  • Through a combination of software and hardware technology, LocBox is rethinking the shopping experience for online and local purchases. If you shop, ship, or have food delivered to your house, LocBox will make your life easier. Led by CEO Sterling Sansing, LocBox has previously participated in the Texas A&M MBA Venture Challenge.
  • SpeakHaus is focused on equipping young professionals and entrepreneurs with public speaking skills through its on-demand training platform and group coaching program. Since launching in October 2021, SpeakHaus has facilitated 6 corporate trainings and coached 61 business leaders generating over $49,000 in revenue. The company is led by CEO Christa Clarke.
  • Led by CEO LaGina Harris, The Us Space is creating spaces intentionally for women of color, women-led businesses, and women-centric organizations. Since launching in June 2021, The Us Space has created partnerships with more than a dozen community organizations, sustainable businesses, and organizations creating positive economic impact in the City of Houston.
  • Founded in August 2021, Urban Eatz Delivery is a food delivery service app that caters to the overlooked and underrepresented restaurants, food trucks, and home-based food vendors. Urban Eatz Delivery has earned over $88,000 in revenue, delivered to over 2,000 users, and worked with 36 restaurant and food vendors on the app. The company is led by CEO D’Andre Good.

“The five companies selected for the Spring 2022 cohort tackle unique problems that have propelled them to create a business that solves the issues they once faced," Foster says in a news release. "From public speaking, apparel comfort, and food delivery from underrepresented restaurant owners, these founders have found their niche and are ready to continue to make an enormous impact on the Houston ecosystem."

it's Foster's first cohort at the helm of the program. A Houston native, she has her master’s in public administration from Texas Southern University and a bachelor’s in marketing from Oklahoma State University. Her background includes work in the nonprofit sector and international business consulting in Cape Town, South Africa, and she's worked within programming at organizations such as MassChallenge, BLCK VC, and now gener8tor.

The program is housed at the Downtown Launchpad. The five startups will have access to the space to meet with mentors, attend events, and run their companies.

"Creating (the hub) was a little like a moonshot, but it’s paying off and contributing enormous impact to the city’s economy. The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Spring cohort will continue that legacy,” says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. “As these entrepreneurs chase their dreams and create something epic, they will know Downtown Houston is standing behind them. I am so proud of what Downtown Launchpad is already, and what it will become.”

Muriel Foster, a native Houstonian, is the new director of gBETA Houston. Image via LinkedIn

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